It was a bitter Easter for people who were evicted from flats they illegally occupied in Kraaifontein last week.
More than 500 people, including children, have been left homeless following their removal from the Sunset Village flats in Scottsdene.
The residents had slept outside and have turned to the courts for help. This after they illegally occupied the unfinished flats, owned by developers, AFHCO Calgro M3 Consortium Limited on Wednesday March 28, and were removed by private security guards the next day.
The court application follows video and photos which have surfaced on social media showing how residents were instructed to leave the premises. In one video, an armed guard in riot gear, surrounded by his colleagues, is heard telling a group of residents in Afrikaans that their time is up. “Listen to me, listen to me, your time is up. The phone call I just received said the time is finished. I’m giving you officially 10 minutes,” he said.
One woman is heard asking: “Where do we go, where do we go with our children?”
The security company, identified in court papers as Vetus Schola Protection Services, then proceeded with evictions.
Security guards fired stun grenades and rubber bullets and many people, including women, were allegedly physically assaulted as they tried to resist.
In an answering affidavit, the developer says that they had never instructed the private company, nor the sheriff of the court, to evict anyone from their property situated in Scottsdene. “The essence of our application was to secure and protect our property,” they said.
Responding to questions from Northern News, Calgro M3 CEO, Wikus Lategan said the people who occupied the units were from Scottsdene and the broader Kraaifontein area. “It is possible that there are other parties inciting this, but you would have to ask the people themselves,” he said.
He said “during the invasion and attempted looting of the units”, damage was caused to security gates, doors were broken, windows smashed and, there was theft of geysers and stoves.
Mr Lategan said this prompted additional security to be deployed.
However, South African Human Rights Commissioner, Chris Nissen, has slammed the eviction, and said residents’ basic human rights had been violated.
“The rights of these people have been tarnished. To anyone who was assaulted in any way by this private security, I ask you to come forward and open a complaint with the Human Rights Commission. Security had no right to do what they did; it was illegal. You have the right to housing,” Mr Nissen told residents.
The head of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development in the Western Cape, Advocate Hishaam Mohamed, and Advocate Winston Erasmus filed an urgent appeal at the Western Cape High Court on Saturday on behalf of the residents. “I was on vacation when I heard and saw viral videos and pictures about what was happening. I immediately decided to help,” Mr Erasmus said.
Mr Mohamed said he will be using his political clout to assist the homeless residents.
“I helped the illegal occupants on behalf of the Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) of the ANC. Because people are being barred from going back to their homes, I think I need to ask people, like Mayor Patricia de Lille, to assist these residents with a roof over their heads and avail the local hall or some place for them to sleep,” he said.
However, Ms De Lille said the City can’t get involved as it is a private matter. “My understanding is that the company involved has a court interdict against occupation of the properly in question, while the group of residents from Scottsdene has also approached the court. The City is not cited as a respondent in the matter and can therefore, not get involved,” Ms De Lille said.
A spokesperson for the residents, Peter Syster, said people are tired of being backyard dwellers and more social housing is needed in Kraaifontein.
“Our people have been on the housing waiting list for years. People feel an injustice is being done to them after that private land was sold to a company who built flats for other people rather than residents,” he said.
“Here are people in Scottsdene who are currently living with 30 people in a house. We are going to fight and do our best not to give up and we now have help from a lawyer who can try his best to stop this matter.”
Non-governmental organisations brought the homeless residents food and drinks over the weekend.
The matter will be heard in the Western Cape High Court on Friday April 20.
Additional reporting – Daily Voice.